History Alive!-Chapter 20. The Shang Dynasty Introduction (p.195)

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1 The Shang Dynasty 20.1 Introduction (p.195) The Shang Dynasty ruled the area around the Huang He from 1700 to 1122B.C.E. Ancient China was not one country, but a number of clans, or extended families, led by warrior kings o Rival clans often fought each other o Occasionally, one clan became powerful enough to control all of ancient China and start a dynasty The Shang (pronounced shung) was one such clan For hundreds of years, the Shang dynasty was considered to be a myth by western scholars o Stories about mysterious markings on animal bones hinted that the Chinese might have been the first Chinese to learn to write o Until 1899, there was no solid evidence that they had existed In 1899, a Chinese scholar found some bones with writing on them he thought they might be Shang oracle bones Oracle bones are animal bones and turtle shells with inscriptions carved by engravers; they were thought to tell the future o Later, in the 1920s, the ruins of a Shang city were found at Anyang 20.2 A Shang Capital City (p.196) Archeologists learned a lot about the Shang when they began excavating the ruins at Anyang in 1928 o The remains were of one of the royal cities of the Shang o The city included a palace, a temple, houses, and workshops for artisans who worked with bronze, pottery, stone, and jade o The king s palace sat on a platform It was made of mud-plastered walls help up by wooden posts Under its foundation, archeologists found human bones the bones suggest that the Shang performed human sacrifices (a person who is killed as part of a religious ritual) when they built a new royal house Human sacrifices were also part of Shang burials o When a king was buried, slaves, servants, and animals were sacrificed so that, the Shang believed, they could serve the needs of the king in the afterlife

2 Because of their belief in the afterlife, Shang kings were also buried with or near bronze vessels and containers of food 20.3 Shang Government (p.197) The Shang government was led by a powerful king who controlled the land o To expand his power, the king set up smaller kingdoms under his younger brother and nephews o Power sometimes passed to a younger brother when a king died o Sometimes a son inherited the kingdom Shang kings depended on strong armies to maintain their rule o The kings engaged in almost constant war with their enemies o They fought to keep other clans (a large group of friends and family) under control and to defend and expand their kingdoms o They also captured prisoners in war to use as laborers in human sacrifices The king s armies were especially powerful because Shang nobles had weapons made of bronze o The Shang were among the first people in the world to discover how to make bronze from a mixture of copper and tin Shang armies were made up of large numbers of foot soldiers, archers cavalry riding horses and elephants, and fighters in chariots 20.4 Shang Social Classes (p ) Shang society can be divided into six social classes: the king and his relatives were at the top; below them were nobles, craftspeople, traders, farmers, and slaves Nobles o The nobles made up the highest-ranking social class after the ruling family o They fought in the king s army and provided weapons, foot soldiers, and chariots o In exchange for their military help, the king did not interfere with their control over the land o Shang nobles enjoyed a life of luxury They lived in great palaces and spent time hunting o The king often gave nobles symbols of power, such as jade discs The discs might show a lucky creature such as a dragon or tiger Nobles often mounted the discs on posts in their homes Craftspeople o Craftspeople formed a small social class that included bronze and jade workers, potters, and stonemasons

3 o These skilled workers had lower status than nobles but higher status than farmers o Bronze workers were especially valued they made the weapons used by Shang warriors; they also made and decorated containers for the king and nobles to use in religious ceremonies or simply as symbols of their wealth Traders o Traders ranked below nobles but above farmers in Shang society o Scholars believe that the Shang traded extensively because the modern Chinese word for merchant is shang ren, which could also mean Shang man o During the Shang dynasty, people mostly traded goods o They used cowrie shells, a type of seashell, as money The shells were valuable because they came from far away the Shang had to trade with neighboring regions to get them Farmers o Farmers were the largest social class in Shang society o They worked small plots of land, growing millet, wheat, barley, rice, fruit, vegetables, and nuts o They did not own the land they farmed the land was under the control of either the king or the nobles o The farmers did not even keep most of their crops they kept only enough to feed themselves and their families; they gave the rest to the nobles, who sent some to the king o Even after the Chinese became good at making bronze and iron weapons, many farmers used simple wooden and stone tools o In addition to growing crops, farmers may have raised pigs and chickens, as well as cattle Slaves o o o At the very bottom of Shang society were slaves, who had often been captured in wars They spent their lived building tombs and palaces When their masters died, slaves were sometimes sacrificed so they could serve their masters in the afterlife 20.5 Religion Under the Shang (p.200) The religion of the Shang centered on ancestor worship (honoring ancestors through rituals, such as offering food and wine to the dead) The Shang believed in a life after death

4 They believed that dead ancestors had power to help or harm the living they believed it was important for people to honor their ancestors o They did through offerings of wine and food, and sometimes through human sacrifices The king s relationship to ancestral spirits was especially important to the Shang o In Shang belief, kings had the power to rule because they were descended from powerful ancestors But kings also had responsibilities, including a duty to follow the wishes of their ancestors Kings used oracle bones to ask their ancestors advice on such important matters as when to hunt, where to build new cities, and whether to go to war o The oracle bones were made from turtle shells or the shoulder blade of a cow o To ask a question (read on p. 200) 20.6 Writing Under the Shang (p. 200) The inscriptions on oracle bones are among the earliest known examples of Chinese writing In Shang writing, as in modern Chinese, characters stand for words rather than sounds At first, Chinese writing contained only pictographs, images that stand for objects By the Shang dynasty, people also used logographs (characters that stand for words) Having a written language helped to unify the Chinese people Although spoken language varied from place to place, people of the upper classes used the same written language 20.7 Art Under the Shang (p.201) Shang artists showed great skill in working with bronze Some bronze vessels had geometric designs and pictures of mythical creatures o The most common creature was an animal mask, later known as a taotie It might have had the horns of an ox, the ears of an elephant, the talons of a bird, the eye of a man, and the crest of a dragon Some scholars say it was a symbol of all the beings in the world o The Shang also produced outstanding jade pieces Jade is a very hard stone Jade workers made objects by sawing, filing, and sanding the stone

5 The Chinese may have believed that the qualities of jade represented the qualities of a superior person the harness of the jade stood for wisdom; jade was also smooth and shiny these qualities stood for kindness 20.8 Technology Under the Shang (p.202) Working with bronze was an important technology for the Shang Craftspeople used bronze to make many tools of war, including arrowheads, spearheads, ax heads, and helmets The bronze-making skill of the Shang is one of the reasons they were able to remain in power for more than 500 years 20.9 The End of the Shang Dynasty (p.202) The Shang excelled in war, and the ruling classes built up great wealth o But in time these very strengths helped to bring about the end of the dynasty Fighting so many wars eventually weakened the military power of the Shang The Shang king and his nobles spent enormous amounts of money of their palaces, furnishings, clothing, and even their tombs In time, this lavish spending may have weakened the economy (a system of managing the wealth of a country or region) A later king would say the final blow was the corruption of the last Shang king instead of looking after his people, he spent all his time on pleasurable activities like hunting [no one knows if this is true] Around Zhou (pronounced joh) rose up against the dynasty o Zhou armies under King Wu caught the Shang unaware, defeating and overthrowing them o One story says that the last Shang king ran from the battlefield, put on all his jewelry, and threw himself into the flames of a fire as Zhou rebels stormed his capital city QUESTIONS: 1. Although spoken language varied from place to place, people of the upper classes used the same.

6 2. What did the King and the nobles do that might have weakened their economy? 3. When Shang kings died, what were they buried with and why were they buried with such items? 4. What made Shang armies especially powerful? 5. What did the scholars believe about traders? 6. What did Shang craftspeople and traders have in common? 7. What did the Shang dynasty accomplish? 8. Why does it take longer to learn to read Chinese than learn to read English?

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